Entering Turkey was one of those ‘goose bumb’ moments. Ready to step into a new continent Asia! We were exited without knowing what to expect at the border of Ipsala. We recently discovered as a Belgium citizen you don’t require an international passport, our Belgium ID was sufficient. All went well! Crossing the bridge between Europe and Asia had something magical. On the right hand side we had a view over trees in water and the left hand side a long queue of trucks (it seemed to be they had to take a mandatory rest before going into Greece).
We started to follow the main road D-100 heading towards Gellibolou in order to take a 15 min ferry to Lapseki where we continued our way up to Bandirma. From Bandirma we took another ferry of 3 hours that enters straight in the city center of Istanbul (make sure you check where the ferry will stop European or Anatolian side, it is forbidden to cross the bridge between the 2 sides, so if you would make the same mistake as us, we advise you to take the metro, this worked quiet well with the bikes, they are allowed, only not during peak time). This route is highly recommended! If you don’t want to cycle the main road entering Istanbul and avoid hell, take the route we took!
Most of the parts where enjoyable. Well paved roads, with a big safety shoulder to cycle on and most of the time reasonable amount of traffic. Of course some parts, entering cities, were less pleasant. The nicest part for us was between Lapseki and Biga. Going up and down on the hills enjoying the views with a combination of hills and sea.
After 4 days of cycling of which we wild camped the first 2 and stayed at a warmshower host Burak in Biga, we arrived in Istanbul at night. We planned to take a longer break here, to rest, to arrange visa’s, to discover the city, to meet-up with friends, to meet with other cyclist sharing information and simply enjoy … a list of things were planned and during the 4 days we have stayed we kind of did all the above. However not in a very efficient way, we felt tired and were lazy. The good thing was we had finally some time for ourselves (alone!), which you mentally need to prepare for the next few 100’s of km’s on the road.
Ready to head east we exit Istanbul via the coast site, with a nice 20 km drive till Pendik. Suddenly we exchanged the busy streets of Istanbul for a park. It was entering a different world. Again a route we would recommend (till Pendik). The next 130 km till Adapazari however weren’t pleasant at all. Image you cycle all the time on a highway, with a high level of noise from the trucks and an increasing amount of smog. It’s exhausting! But Sara had a good reason to go to Adapazari, as she wanted to visit her Toyota colleagues in the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Turkey, which was a great experience and another milestone we hit!
Luckily all the down moments are always followed by some positive experiences. When you feel horrible, you have to know that it’s just a stage and it will turn in something new again.
Turkey has been all about meeting people, having hours and hours of conversations about all kind of topics around the world (politics, culture, food, history), enjoying the hospitality of the Turkish families, a warm shower, good traditional food, a comfortable bed and even one of the families invited us for a day trip to share their passion of rock climbing. Due to bad weather it turned into a visit to an old village ‘Tralek’ and a nice walk around a lake up in the mountains. Big thank you for all the ones that made our time in Turkey great!
Ready to say goodbye to the middle part of Turkey, heading to the black coast now, where we cycled from Ordu to Hopa our last 400 km’s next to the black coast. Following the main road is good for 2 things: flat and fast, however it’s exhausting due to the amount of trucks and traffic noise! We were unlucky with the weather whilst cycling along the coast, we didn’t see much views due to rain and fog.
Tip: try some ‘Findik’, this means hazelnut. Along the Turkish black coast you will see many Findik groves and shops selling hazelnut in all kind of processed forms. We once accidentally camped at a Findik grove. We knew it wasn’t a public space, but it was late, we needed a place to sleep and there was a fallow part perfect for our tent. At dusk the owner appeared, but he was friendly and didn’t have a problem with us camping there. Apparently he also owned a hazelnut processing factory and to our surprise he gave some samples of his pride, a jar of hazelnut paste and a pack of roasted nuts claiming that his factory produced the best in the whole world.